Cedars pre-departure accommodation report

Response to HM Inspectorate of Prisons report on announced inspection of Cedars Pre-Departure Accommodation

23 October 2012

Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CCLC) is extremely concerned by several of the findings in the HM Inspectorate of Prisons report on Cedars and reiterates its call for an end to the immigration detention of children.

CCLC is alarmed by the report’s observations on the use of force. Force was used on six of 39 families, including the use of ‘physical control in care’ techniques on children to effect removal rather than to prevent harm, with ‘a risk of escalation leading to the possibility of injury and psychological trauma to the children involved’. Handcuffs were used on five occasions. In one case, force was used to effect the removal of a pregnant woman, with a ‘significant’ risk of injury, presenting ‘an unacceptable risk to the health of the unborn child’. In another case, an escort grabbed a detainee by the hair.

CCLC is very concerned that the report found there was ‘limited access to adult mental health services and child and adolescent mental health services’ and ‘no mental health awareness training for any staff’. This is despite two incidents of self-harm, the detention at Cedars of at least two mothers with ‘mild mental health problems’, and the evidently highly stressful and traumatic experience children and families are going through. Fifteen detainees in crisis were managed by the care planning system and the report notes that ‘in all cases it was evident that imminent removal was the primary cause of the crisis’. The report found that children became ‘very distressed’ during forced removals of their parents and were separated from their parents. The report makes clear that parents and children find the circumstances of detention and removal ‘clearly traumatic’ and the report notes the ‘traumatic dislocation for children who have, in many cases, been born in this country or been here for much of their lives’.

CCLC is worried by the procedural and governance issues highlighted in the report. A key feature of the government’s family returns process is the removal plan and its approval by the independent family returns panel. The report found that ‘some elements of removal plans had not been followed’ and that ‘minutes of panel meetings signifying if support arrangements had been approved were not always received until after removal’. The report found that the number of night-time moves involving children was high, with 20 out of 39 families subjected to tiring night-time moves to meet flight times, at least once going against what was in the removal plan approved by the independent family returns panel, without the panel being informed of this.

Further worrying findings are that the criteria for detaining families are being applied inconsistently by local immigration teams across the country, and that there was varying quality in the family welfare form (and one instance of incomplete information and unsupported conclusions). The report suggested that rules on the use of the separation room and how to record its use were unclear. Overall, the report found that the legal basis for the operation of Cedars, under interim operating standards, needs to be clearer.

Among the 39 families who had been detained at Cedars by the end of the inspection, 17 removals had failed. CCLC is concerned that six families were detained twice and one family was detained three times. Nine of the 39 families were released, suggesting that these families should never have been detained in the first place.

Coram Children’s Legal Centre is disturbed that the number of children being detained in Cedars and other detention facilities is on the rise. Home Office figures show that 113 children were put in detention in the first half of 2012, compared to 99 entering detention during the whole of 2011.

Kamena Dorling, manager of the Migrant Children’s Project at Coram Children’s Legal Centre, said: ‘We welcomed the government’s announcement in 2010 that it intended to end the immigration detention of children and we now reiterate our call for that commitment to be realised and for it to end completely’.

Further information

Read the full report on the Ministry of Justice's website.

Contact: Kathy Chellew, CCLC Communications Manager: 020 7713 2017/07949 844880 or kchellew@essex.ac.uk.

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